Food & Nutrition

21 Shelf-Stable Foods for Your Emergency Food Supply

You’ve probably heard the advice to have an emergency food supply and stock up on other basic needs in response to the new coronavirus outbreak. That’s because experts say it is likely that we’ll see the new coronavirus (COVID-19) spread widely in the U.S. Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that most people in the U.S. have little immediate risk of exposure, but the overall risk assessment varies widely depending on your situation (like if you’re in a community with a known outbreak, you’ve traveled to an area with a known outbreak, or you’ve been in contact with someone who has). It’s important to remember that the situation is rapidly evolving—and based on current global circumstances, COVID-19 is likely to cause a pandemic here at some point, the CDC says.

The Department of Homeland Security advises preparing for a potential pandemic by having a two-week supply of food and water on hand (among other things, like prescription and OTC meds). That way, if a quarantine does occur, you’re already set—and as SELF previously reported, it’s actually better to buy now so stores can reorder stock before any potential shortages caused by a sharp jump in demand and/or supply chain disruptions. (For more expert advice on how to get ready for a possible pandemic, read 5 Things to Do If You’re Worried About Coronavirus in the U.S. or scan the CDC emergency kit checklist.)

Shelf-stable foods, in particular, are your smartest buy for an emergency food supply. These nonperishable products can be stored safely at room temperature and stay good for weeks, months, or years without refrigeration (ever, or at least until after opening), according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service. That’s because they’ve been treated by heat and/or dried in order to kill any microorganisms that can cause spoilage or foodborne illness, and then packaged in sterile, airtight containers like cans, bottles, pouches, and cartons, the USDA explains. (Shelf life varies, so check the expiration date on the packaging.)

Blanking on what the heck you should actually be buying? We’ve got a handy list of shelf-stable foods for your emergency food supply that will provide you with tasty nourishment, pandemic or no pandemic. Best case scenario, you wind up with some delicious and convenient extra food in your pantry.

Just a quick note: The products listed here were available at the links below as of publication, but if they aren’t available anymore, try your local grocery store or Google to find something similar.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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